New England Patriots tight end Jake Ballardshould be able to make the roster even if Rob Gronkowski does not hit the PUP list, because he has plenty of upside if he can get back on track once he fully recovers from microfracture surgery. It has been a tough road back for Ballard, but it sounds like he is close to being fully recovered. Ballard still looked stiff in training camp, but he received a greater workload last night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and received more praise for his blocking ability.
ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss charted Jake Ballard with 19 snaps last night (he had 12 against the Philadelphia Eagles), and he wrote something interesting about Ballard’s blocking, “At tight end, Ballard – who ended up playing 19 total snaps – increased his workload from last week (12). He looks like he might be the team’s best inline blocker at the position.”
Rob Gronkowski is the best blocking tight end in the NFL, but this entire discussion will only surround the tight ends who are currently playing on the roster. Ballard has some competition for the title of best “inline blocker” on the team at TE, because Daniel Fells did an excellent job of blocking last season. Zach Sudfeld isn’t really an inline blocker, because his experience blocking comes from Nevada’s pistol offense. Once he refines his skills and becomes a better blocker in a pro-style offense, then Sudfeld should be an elite blocking TE after what he showed at Nevada.
Michael Hoomanawanui? He’s up there too, but his role on the team is as an H-Back and lead-blocker for Stevan Ridley and the other talented running backs on the Patriots roster. Hooman could very well be the second-best blocking TE on the team overall, but he might be the third-best inline blocker behind Gronk and Ballard. It’s interesting to see Reiss praise Ballard so highly for his blocking, and that’s definitely a huge plus for Ballard and the Patriots. Even if his pass-catching deteriorates due to potentially losing a lot of athleticism and/or agility from the knee injury, he should be more than useful in the Patriots offense with his blocking.